Archive for March, 2011

Finding the stepping stones

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

In a column last January, Winnipeg Free Press columnist Gerald Flood showed that former premier Gary Doer screwed up the consultation process with First Nations Communities. In choosing a route for the Manitoba Hydro Bi-Pole III, the east side had always been Hydro’s first choice. Doer completely screwed up communication with the 16 east side First Nations communities and opted to move the route to the western side of the province. You can check out the story for yourself at: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/westview/west-side-emperor-starkers-82578727.html
Gerald Flood was one of the people who interviewed me as part of an FP editorial board when I ran for the PC leadership in 2006. He and the Freep were only a  bit sympathetic to my stand against on the Bi-Pole III route and so it bites a bit now that the FP has taken one of my platforms and said that’s the way it should be. Life goes on and we just smile and move on.
What Flood doesn’t mention in this article is that one of Premier Doer’s last tasks as premier was to give $10 million (October 2009) to the group called Pimachiowin Aki. This is a small group who have built a web site and it appears not much else to date. The lady, Sophia Rabliauskas, is aboriginal. She  runs Pimachiowin Aki, is married to a Russian, Ray Rabliauskas, Lands Management Coordinator,who is an administrator on her home reserve, Poplar River.
You can verify the $10 million grant at: http://www.pimachiowinaki.org/our-news/10-million-trust-fund-established-support-pimachiowin-aki-world-heritage-site
You can check out the Pimachiowin Aki web site at: http://www.pimachiowinaki.org/
Now there’s more money going into Pimachiowin Aki. The Winnipeg Sun says on November 8, 2010:”The Winnipeg Foundation announced today that they have partnered with several First Nations to campaign to have the boreal forest declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.The Campaign for the Land that Gives Life has received a generous contribution from the Manitoba Government of $10 million to start an endowment fund with the Winnipeg Foundation. Pimachiowin Aki, a corporation comprised of five First Nations and the provincial governments of Manitoba and Ontario, are “raising funds to take care of a place that is a wonder of the world,” said spokesperson Sophia Rabliauskas.The endowment fund is being taken care of by the Winnipeg Foundation and with the funds from the Manitoba government, they are halfway to their proposed goal of $20 million.“Our goal is sustained in meaningful impact,” said Rick Frost, CEO of the Winnipeg Foundation. The Winnipeg Foundation will be matching donations nine to one. “This land is important to the world.” To donate or for more information, visit www.landthatgiveslife.com”
I would sure like to see the books for Pimachiowin Aki and I hope the Winnipeg Foundation has done their due diligence.
This whole issue is a thinly veiled scam. The eastern boreal forest is thousands of square miles of non-descript and actually quite common bush land. If in fact it is to become a UNESCO Heritage site, it will be of no more significance than hundreds of other sites across Canada. The irony is that the group wants people to come and see and enjoy the natural beauty of the land but without  a road, how is anyone supposed to get there? Tourists tend not to like expensive local air flights or winter roads in January.
The whole scheme is ridiculous, made even more so by claims of being “pristine”. It’s far from pristine. I have first hand reports that it may be pristine if you don’t count the 16 communities that are there, including one of 10,000 people. It may be pristine if you don’t count the sewage going into the lakes, if you don’t count the burnt out cars and snowmobiles. If you don’t count the thousands of liquor bottles that have been cast aside along the riverbanks  by paddlers, hikers, sports fishers and hunters. If you don’t count the fact that these communities can’t afford basic infrastructure let alone proper land fills or recycling. If you think recycling is expensive in southern Manitoba, try paying to truck your drink cans and old papers to a recycling plant over winter roads.
Gary Doer got a 10 year free ride in the media because he was charming, he played the media like a cheap fiddle and he would sit down and “have a beer” with the boys and girls of the media. In case that didn’t keep the news hounds at bay, he would pour huge dollars into Manitoba’s news leader, the Winnipeg Free Press (eg. the Spirited Energy Campaign governed by a board that included the Freep owner). If that didn’t work he could always lean on a pack of attack hounds that would regularly be turned loose on anyone who dared oppose him. I have experienced that tactic personally. Then if all else failed, Doer would scream that the “Conservatives fired 1,500 nurses in the 1990s” which is a total lie.
Doer was good at one thing and that was simple math. He learned early on in his career in the union halls and church basement union meetings that you don’t have to get everyone out to vote for you. All you need is 30 per cent. Half the people don’t show up to vote so a solid and committed 30 per cent support translates into 60 per cent of the votes actually cast and makes you the winner.
It’s galling to think that Manitoba has been controlled by a leader and a party that has the confirmed and dedicated support of a very well organized 30 per cent minority.
That’s how Gary Doer was able to give away taxpayers money to fund a “pristine forest” myth, a scam, $10 million to be exact, even as he walked out the door on his way to being Canada’s ambassador to the U.S..
I believe that history will verify this story and further that Gary Doer will end up with a plum position at UNESCO or in a United Nations environment post. He’s only been on the ambassador job for 18 months in Washington and has received an award for meritorious service. Oh yes, the “pristine boreal forest” has has some creeks with stepping stones in them and Gary Doer has always been able to find the stepping stones. It’s just too bad for Manitobans, and especially for First Nations Manitobans, that his steps have been so self-centred.

What a difference a year makes!

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

One of the duties and joys of being a weekly newspaper publisher is that you gain an extra appreciation for the yearly cycle of the seasons and the community. It seems that we should be having spring by now and last year that was the case. At least we didn’t have this much snow around and I remember that because we were able to work and walk all around our “new” house before we moved in April 1. Like most people, we can’t find our yard or sidewalks this year due to the heavy snow accumulation.

One little wrinkle about the weekly newspaper business is that we are always working one or two weeks ahead. When an event actually arrives we tend to think that we’ve already “been there, done that” because we’ve handled the advertising and the stories already.

Speaking of news and ads we can use more of both. Email us or contact us, we’d love to hear from you.

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If we can bring you news in a better way please contact me.

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Hope all is well with you and yours and may God bless us all.

Ken Waddell

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Autopac headed wrong way again
This week the Canadian Taxpayers Federation posed this question, “If someone stole your vehicle and got into an accident, do you think MPI should give them compensation? Obviously not.Unfortunately for taxpayers, MPI has been doing just that!
A recent CTV news story highlighted one case where a thief was given between $30,000 and $60,000 after smashing up a stolen car and getting injured in the process. That’s over and above the cost to our health care system for fitting him up with expensive prosthetic limbs and other procedures.
To add insult to injury, MPI also conceded they will sometimes pay for criminals’ family members to be flown in to visit them in the hospital. MPI will even provide compensation to the families of criminals that die in stolen cars. Worst of all, the NDP voted down a bill in 2008 that would have ended such nonsense. It’s time to tell Andrew Swan, the minister responsible for MPI, to wise up. Cut off the benefits to criminals or resign…taxpayers have had enough!
In 2008, according to Winnipeg Sun’s Tom Brodbeck, the NDP Justice minister Dave Chomiak “ridiculed a Tory private member’s bill that called for the complete elimination of MPI benefits for convicted car thieves who get hurt or killed in vehicle collisions. He called the bill “typical Tory meanness,” saying the proposed change was nothing but “symbolism”.
To see Dave Chomiak in action in the provincial legislature is an unforgettable experience. He is like an over-wound tin toy who rattles and bangs away at whatever stands in his way. Whenever former premier Gary Doer couldn’t sway the house with his own twisted stories and bombast, Chomiak would be unleashed to rise to the occasion and blast away, making less sense than a cat on a tin roof.
But bombast aside, there’s a sense of entitlement at play here. Chomiak, who is also a former minister of Health, figures that if Autopac doesn’t pay out the injury claims and the family claims, the health care will have to pay. Even if healthcare has to pay some of the strictly medical expenses, there’s a major accounting glitch here in Chomiak’s logic. He treats Autopac fees as just another tax pool. On the contrary, Autopac fees should be kept as low as possible. Autopac should not be paying compensation for car thieves or their families.
Autopac, as a monopoly, should have a clear mandate from government to provide auto insurance as economically as possible to consumers. That way, both private and business insurance expenses for auto and truck insurance can be as competitive as possible.
If Autopac has any money left over it should be allocated to ways of reducing their own costs by helping police in getting car thieves off the road. First get them off the road and then into rehab as quickly as possible. It would be interesting to know how many cars and trucks are stolen every year. It’s in  the hundreds and they get paid out too. Who would want a stolen, bagged out car back anyway?
Autopac fees aren’t just another tax pool that the NDP government can divert whenever it wants to. Autopac has a clear monopoly and a mandate. It should be following it. Autopac should not be dictating auto environmental policy by eliminating pre-1995 cars, they shouldn’t be compensating criminals and they shouldn’t be funding all kinds of other stuff. Remember when they wanted to divert Autopac profits to the university?
We need streamlined, clear cut auto insurance policies, not a bloated monopoly bureaucracy wandering around trying to find places to drop off its excessive profits. Autopac has become like a giant, over-fed, staggering elephant looking for fresh ground to shed its droppings. It’s all a matter of viewpoint and, as usual, the NDP view is in error. 

Think Parents, think!

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Nick Martin is a columnist with the Winnipeg Free Press. He’s also an amateur youth soccer referee in Winnipeg. In his Tuesday column he writes that, after being yelled at several times by at least one parent of a nine-year-old soccer player girl, “End of the match, the coach comes over and tells me that he’s told his parents that it’s unacceptable for them to yell at the referee, whereupon he starts telling me what a crummy job I did and arguing call upon call.”
One only has to attend any soccer or hockey game to realize that the intensity of the parents is, in many cases, way over the top. Yelling at the ref is almost always unacceptable. It’s not as if a person’s livelihood depends on the outcome of the game. It’s not as if the national championship is in the balance when a youth soccer or hockey coach or baseball ump blows a call.
The shame that an over-the-top parent brings upon themselves and on their children causes a turning in  the pit of my stomach. A shame sweeps over me when parents get all steely-eyed and nasty about the referee’s calls. Over-the-top parental calls shame their child, shame themselves and degrade the game to a point that many fans, parents and kids just don’t want to be there. And that in itself is a shame.
Yelling at the coach or at the child player is just as bad, maybe worse. Quite frankly, if a parent can’t shut up, they shouldn’t be at the game. It’s called a spectator sport for a reason; you are supposed to watch and cheer. 
Why people engage negatively in youth sporting events is beyond me. Perhaps I’m too self conscious, but stupidly drawing attention to oneself is a folly that evades my comprehension.
Cheering is great. Applauding a good play is very good. Expressing some kind of anti-cheer for  a bad play or a questionable call is fair. But to berate a ref or a coach or a kid, that’s totally wrong.
If I were a coach or a referee, I would walk over to the offending person and hand them the whistle or the clipboard and walk off the field or out of the arena. If you are that intense about your feelings about the coach or the ref’s incompetence then you should be a more than adequate replacement.
Sports is supposed to bring about maturity and growth. If that’s the case, it’s obvious that some parents have never played sports. 
Sometimes sports aren’t fair. Get used to it. Life isn’t fair. No amount of protesting and whining is going to change that fact. The world disasters aren’t fair. The incidence of disease in a person’s life isn’t fair. Most of the things that we have no control over aren’t fair. Get used to it buddy (or honey)!
Life’s unfairness doesn’t need to be made all that much worse by idiot reactions to a nine-year-old’s hockey or soccer game. We expect our children to grow up. We should expect the same of the parents.

We need some thought here

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

The City of Winnipeg budget is in the news. The federal government budget will come down March 22, the provincial budget on April 12. Municipal and town budgets are being ground out by staff and councils across the province.
The big news has become tax freezes and the corresponding increases in user fees. The trend is definitely there. Tax freezes are deemed to be a good  thing but someone has to pay for services so user fees are on the rise.
MPs, MLAs and councillors like to freeze taxes. Prime ministers, premiers and mayors like to do that as they can summarize their governments accomplishments in concise and brief terms that people tend to understand. Tax freeze good, tax increase bad. Pretty simple.
Politics in Canada has to be kept simple. Studies have shown that the average Canadian thinks about politics seven minutes a week. During an election, it goes up to eight minutes a week. And that includes all levels of politics, municipal, provincial and federal. That’s it! Seven minutes a week, one minute a day. No wonder the “15 second sound bite” is the main method of political communication in Canada. A politician is fortunate if he gets the average person’s attention for a part of one minute a day. Also consider that in that average, some people are thinking more about politics than seven minutes a week. But also consider, in that average, there are people who don’t think about politics at all.
Traditionally, it’s been a desirable thing to keep taxes low. Everybody prefers lower taxes as opposed to increasing or higher taxes. Even the most die-hard socialists like to keep their money in their pocket. Unfortunately, they like to keep everyone else’s money in their pocket too.
Over the years, a lot of true costs have been buried or hidden. Two examples come to mind. Water bills have often been kept artificially low, subsidized by the tax roll. Providing water has rarely been at its true cost. That’s changing somewhat as the Manitoba Public Utilities Board is encouraging cities, towns and municipalities to move towards a cost recovery basis on water provision. Not only cost recovery, but setting aside reserves for replacement.
Another example is rink fees. For years now rink fees have been kept artificially low by grants from towns or municipalities. 
But there’s a problem,
First look at water rate. If water rates are artificially low, then there’s little incentive to conserve water. If water is really cheap, why would you shut off the tap, fix the leaky toilet tank or install a low water use shower head? Why would you let your beloved lawn go brown in August if water is cheap?
With rink fees, it can be argued that the whole community benefits from having a strong hockey and skating program and that’s a solid argument. Youth and older people as well can be active, enjoy the ice sports, be physically fit and stay out of trouble. But what about the equality of municipal contribution. When one takes the town and municipal grants and examines them on a per capita basis there can be huge discrepancies. Some municipalities can have fairly high participation by their residents without making any contribution to a facility.
Balancing user fees for any public facility or service with the tax grants or tax funding is a tough decision to make. The worst thing that can happen is that governing bodies do “the same as last year” without so much as an examination of the taxes and fees. 
It’s time for water usage to be self-funded. That just makes sense. If people insist on watering their lawn or having a half hour shower then they should pay the price. In the rink example, it would be nice if the facility could run without taxpayer support but that ideal is so far out of reach that it’s not likely to happen. However, that doesn’t mean that budgets shouldn’t be carefully examined and probed for ways to get more income and to shave costs.
There never has been a facility or a program that couldn’t cut costs and increase income thereby reducing their deficit. It takes diligence, experience and political will. If we want positive results, perhaps the key is to engage our minds in politics for a bit more than seven minutes a week.


kwaddell@kenwaddell.ca This is a Sunrize Group internet solution (204)226-2247